Bringing up Willful

When Kevin Oulds came to us with his idea for Willful we couldn’t wait to work on the project. Here’s how we helped build the brand from start to success.


In the same way that a new born baby requires all of your attention, so does a new business. This explains why it can sometimes be especially hard for entrepreneurs to pass the reins to others, even if it means opening your business up to new perspectives and opportunities that only an outsider could provide.

Working at an agency, clients hire us because we’re subject matter experts at design and storytelling, but they sometimes have a hard time relinquishing control when push comes to shove. Sometimes though a client will come to you with complete trust and we can’t lie – it’s awesome. That’s why when Kevin Oulds, the Founder and CEO of Willful, came to us and gave us the creative freedom we’d always dreamed of, we couldn’t have been more excited. His idea was simple, but brilliant – create an online platform that made it simple, affordable, and user-friendly to create a legal will online. He had thought everything out in theory, but in terms of the brand and the online platform, the slate was blank. A dream come true. Here’s a breakdown of what we did to bring Willful from idea to full-fledged feat.

Naming

The process started back in April, with a naming exercise. We created a long list of words that we associated with wills. While we want to keep some of the non-winning name ideas in our back pocket, we can say the list included words like legacy, farewell, and wishesA fly on the wall may have had a hard time keeping up during this conversation. We talked about cats having nine lives, the alleged pearly gates, and the etymology of the word ‘will’. After several brainstorms and some back and forth, the team landed on the name Willful. Positive, simple, and succinct – don’t you think?

Design

Our Art Director, Cory, came out of the naming brainstorm and ran with some of the ideas that had been discussed. Keeping the word association exercise in mind, he focused on some of the words that resonated best with the concept as the visual brand evolved: intentional, peace of mind, control, and organized. Funnily enough, these were the same words that came up in our positioning and messaging brainstorms too. Wanting to steer clear of any negative associations with wills (fun stuff like death and mortality), Cory kept the idea of ‘having your ducks in a row’ at top of mind. This phrase encapsulated the idea of people being prepared and organized for anything, while also keeping things light.

Cory looked to the Things Organized Neatly Tumblr account for inspiration to inform the overall direction of the brand. He chose colours that were fun and optimistic, and a simple sans-serif typeface that made the letters appear perfectly lined up. He also added a period at the end of the wordmark to represent the ‘end’. Each object presented on the site was chosen to represent different life moments that should spur you to think about creating a will – marriage, your first child, your first home. Every decision was made with considerate thought and deliberate meaning. We’re kind of obsessed with how it turned out.

We also helped with the design of the online platform, designing both the marketing site and the back-end platform – Cory obsessed over every button, the user flow, and the site map that guided people through the creation of their will. The result is a simple, intuitive platform that helps people create a will online in less than 20 minutes, and uses a Turbo Tax-style progress bar to help people through the process. We also wrote all the copy on the website, establishing a trustworthy, professional tone while still communicating Kevin’s backstory.

Public Relations

In preparation for launch, our PR team had to find a hook that would create a larger narrative for Willful and how it would fit into the daily lives of Canadians. As we’ve said before your business simply existing isn’t news. Headed up by Jamie, the team used three main hooks. The first was found in numbers, using the statistic that 56% of Canadians don’t currently have a will. The second was personal, taking from Kevin’s life and the experience of having to deal with a loss and the added difficultly that not having a will can cause the family. The third hook, which was most useful for technology and business press, was that Willful is disrupting the hyper-traditional industry by using tech to change a process that has seen little to no evolution in the past 20 years.

These hooks were to the point, spoke to the core of the product, the need for it in Canada, as well as catered to a wide variety of publications. Pitchnotes were the first touchstone with journalists and gave them all the top line details they needed on the announcement. From there some read the press release, others visited the site to learn more about the company background, and lastly, some journalists set up interviews with Kevin to get the full story. Our media relations efforts resulted in seven pieces of unique press with an estimated online readership of 1.8M. Coverage appeared in technology and business publications like Investment Executive, Digital Journal, Techvibes and ITBusiness, as well as consumer outlets like 680News and in blogs including RateHub. (and we’re just getting started – this is just the coverage to date). We’re also in the process of launching an affiliate program for bloggers so we can spread the word to more Canadians.

Willful launched in October and since launching the reaction from the press and users has been extremely positive. It was a dream project for us to have a blank slate for both branding and storytelling, and while it didn’t exactly start at the bottom, we couldn’t be happier with how we helped get it there.